As I laid down with Theodore tonight to get him to sleep, I couldn't help but get so frustrated over our current society's ideal of having independent children. I sometimes feel like I'm under constant scrutiny from other moms out there (including my own) of the way I am a mother. It must feel terrible to still be nursing your 2.5-yr-old when you are 34 weeks pregnant, to have formed a habit of him not falling asleep alone, to have him still in the bed with you!!! Oh, the horrors. We are told by parenting experts, pediatricians, friends, mommy bloggers that raising children is terrible and hard and we like unto climbing Mt. Everest and why would you ever want to make it harder? We don't want to breastfeed because it ties us down, we let our babies cry in isolation for hours at a time to teach them to sleep independently, we leave them in car seats and bouncers and swings rather than holding them so they don't become too attached to us. We don't want to spoil them, right?
I'll be the first to admit that my child is attached to me. Yes, he is still nursing. Yes, it is still mutually desired, he loves it, and (most days) the thought of not nursing him makes me terribly sad (we stopped for a week and it was really hard for me and him, so we gave up). Yes, we read and sing and lay with him every night until he is asleep. Yes, he crawls into bed with us in the middle of the night and stays there until morning. No, I don't find any of these things to be burdensome or annoying. 90% of the time, I wouldn't have it any other way. I know there were some periods when we weren't getting much sleep, when we tried to force him into a crib and sleeping on his own, when I was not happy with the situation and wanted to change things.
Looking back, I realize now that most of that unhappiness with our situation was the thought that it would be like that forever. Like when he was 18 months old and still waking up all night to nurse, I thought if I didn't hate it and change it, he would do it forever. Well, two years old rolled around and we broke the habit pretty easily, and while he doesn't sleep "through the night" most nights, he wakes up and goes right back to sleep with very little coaxing. I know now that babies grow up, and whether we work hard to get them to conform to our ideals of how a baby should behave or whether nature takes it course and they grow older and their nervous systems mature and they sleep longer, and I won't be anxious and eager with this next little one but I hope I will be more content to savor the time she is my tiny baby, waking up with me at night and cuddling up next to me all day. I will have a running, jumping, laughing, talking preschooler in front of me to remind me that these moments will not last, and before I know it, she too will no longer need me so completely and desperately.
And if sometimes I just want to lay on the couch and read a book instead of singing my toddler to sleep, I'll remember tonight when he shoved his face up against mine, whispered "I love you" and gave me a long kiss right smack on the lips. Because no amount of "me time" can beat that.